The concern over the ACA being upheld this week reminded me of the subject of a few videos I saw recently: bees. Like most of you probably, I’ve had an interesting relationship with bees. As a very young child, I was warned to avoid them. Despite that, I still managed to get stung pretty badly on the throat at a neighborhood gathering. I didn’t provoke the bee, but it happened, and subsequently, I was terrified of them.
We moved to Oceanside, California, where bees flourished in the good weather and ample flowers, probably helped by our next-door neighbor, who kept a couple of apiaries. At least at that time: we lived in a subdivision that was carved out of old farmland, largely still used as farms. Our sub was a first of many, and so now the area is unrecognizable to me, and the bees are probably all dead.
Anytime a bee would come near me, I’d freak out completely and try to whack it to death while running in the opposite direction. Poor bees. That behavior stopped around the time I witnessed a bee mistakenly sting an inanimate object and disembowel itself, slowly, and then die. Poor bee, I thought, I am sorry your life was cut short in such a futile way.
I decided it would be best to just avoid anything that flowered.
Several years ago, just prior to the rise of Colony Collapse Disorder, I took a personal interest in bees again. I had a neighbor who owned vicious dogs, and I wanted to see what the local laws were about dog ownership. I didn’t find anything directly useful about dogs, but I learned that I could keep chickens and up to TWO apiaries on my property. I thought it might be pretty novel to get a couple hives, mount them on the fence between our properties and let nature take its course. There are even local beekeeping courses! My plan never unfolded, but I had a new respect for bees.
Here are some pretty impressive videos about Japanese hornets vs. bees of European and Japanese varieties. The first video is a 3-minute video of a Japanese Giant Hornet scout coming across a hive of Japanese honeybees, and how the bees respond to the scout. The Japanese name for the giant hornet is “Giant Sparrow Bee”—and you can see why:
What’s interesting is that it omits the rather creepy and possessed sound the bees make when the intruder enters the hive. It’s surprising the giant hornets haven’t learned they should get out of there when the bees start harmonizing, around 20 seconds into this clip. For fun, press the CC button, turn on captions and then turn on translate (the narration and music is far more excited in this clip, which even includes a heatmap of the bee ball):
This next bit is the hornets vs. the European honeybee. We don’t have these terrible hornets in the west, but the Japanese farmers like the European honeybee because their yields are higher. Unfortunately, these bees don’t have any learned defense against the giant hornets. It’s depressing to watch, and I recommend watching the Japanese bees kicking ass again after this one:
If you’ve seen Isabella Rossellini’s “Green Porno” series, you won’t be surprised to see her latest collaboration with Burt’s Bees. These film shorts seek to educate about the honeybee and encourage people to create hospitable environments to encourage bees to thrive in adverse conditions. In these three clips, “Burt”, played by Rossellini, meets the queen, discovers the plight of drones, learns the social structure of the hive, and how honey is made:
Back to the ACA: like the bees taking care of their society, we’re all in this together. And unlike the case of European bees sentenced to a horrible death in Japan, if it really doesn’t work out, we can always change things.
Be nice to bees. Plant some wildflowers if you can.